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Showing posts from June, 2015

The 7 Craziest Things I’ve Eaten in Spain

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Despite what many Spaniards may tell you, the food here is not spicy at all. But that hardly means Spanish cuisine is boring! I’ve broadened my palate and tried so many new things since moving to Spain in 2012, picking up a taste for everything from sardines and anchovies to cured beef and cheese. During this culinary adventure I’ve had throughout the country, though, I’ve come across some pretty crazy stuff, most of which I actually enjoy eating now! Read on to see some of the exciting dishes you can try in Spain.

1) Octopus No, this isn’t like those little fried calamari you get as an appetizer sometimes; pulpo á feira is adult octopus, tentacles and all, slow-boiled under tender. After the octopus is finished cooking, apron-clad women (the pulpeiras) snip the purple tentacles into little medallions with scissors, discarding the mantle or “head.” Garnished with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pimentón (smoked paprika), the white tentacle cross-sections are often served with boiled…

Photo Post: The Galician Resort Town of Sanxenxo, Spain

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My weekend trip down south to Vigo back in January took me to a few new places I hadn’t explored before in the area: a legit Mexican restaurant in Vigo, the monumental old town of Pontevedra, and the granite-paved fishing village of Combarro.

My last stop took me west of Combarro and Pontevedra. Hanging out on the north side of the Ría de Pontevedra estuary lies Sanxenxo, a resort town whose population (and rent) doubles in the summer as out-of-town folks flood the apartments that sprawl across the south-facing beaches.

Pronounced “sahn-SHEN-show” [sanˈʃen.ʃo] (probably the funnest Galician place-name of them all to say), this town was unfortunately rather dull in the cold of winter, despite the unusual January sunshine. The friends I daytripped out here with and I all wished we could have just laid out on the beach, but instead we buttoned up our coats and tightened our scarves when we got out of the car.

Combarro, Spain: Galicia’s Most Beautiful Village?

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Early on in my first year teaching English in northwest Spain, my bilingual coordinator told me there was one place I absolutely could not miss before returning back to the States: seaside Combarro, Galicia’s most beautiful fishing village. She’s never made such a recommendation before or since, so I took her local advice to heart and daytripped out here while I was in the Pontevedra area this January.

I am all about that village life, and Combarro did not disappoint. This viliña mariñeira or “little mariner’s town” mainly draws folks to stroll down its historic, granite-paved streets that date back to the 1700s, where you can appreciate traditional Galician houses, their covered porches, wrap-around balconies, and tiny gardens and flower planters.

Combarro’s also a great place to get to know two of the most emblematic structures you’ll run into in the Galician countryside (or on the coast). No fewer than eight cruceiros or monumental granite crosses dot this tiny town, and every oth…

The 5 Cathedrals of Galicia, Spain

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As a major architecture nerd, there’s nothing I love exploring while traveling so much as a sprawling castle, a light-filled church, or a stately mansion. I really enjoy getting to see in person how western architectural styles evolved over the centuries, from the most primitive of pre-Romanesque to the fascinating contemporary stuff built today. And while I may not be a Roman Catholic, I nevertheless did grow up in the church, so cathedrals hold a special place in my heart.

Over the past two years it’s been exciting to check out all five cathedrals located in Galicia, Spain’s northwestern region, from Santiago de Compostela’s monumental masterpiece to the humble mountain sanctuary of Mondoñedo. Let me share with you the interesting churches that head up the five Galician dioceses.

Lugo Like all the rest of the cathedrals in Galicia, Lugo’s is at its core a Romanesque church, characterized by thick, heavy walls and columns with narrow slits for windows and lots of sculpture. But there…

Photo Post: The Old Town of Pontevedra, Spain

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Out of Galicia’s four provincial capitals (A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense, and Pontevedra), Pontevedra was my last to check off the list, despite being barely an hour south of Santiago. An almost-coastal town, it straddles the Lérez River right before it empties into the Ría de Pontevedra estuary on Galicia’s western coast.

I spent the better part of a day in Pontevedra back in January when I went down south to Vigo to meet up with some friends from college who were now teaching English together there. Pontevedra surprised me: the town was one lively plaza after another where terrace cafés stretched out beneath soportales arches and children bothered pigeons with their impromptu soccer games.

The old town reminded me a lot of Santiago de Compostela, as it was also built almost entirely out of local granite stone. Huge slabs paved the roads and sidewalks, and stately mansions and humble apartments alike were constructed with this igneous rock. The Virxe Peregrina Church welcomed me into the …

Daytripping to Medieval-Walled Ávila, Spain

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You need a good five to seven days to fully explore the Spanish capital of Madrid: its world-class art museums, neighborhoods, sprawling public parks, and historic bars and restaurants. But you’d arguably need another week just to check out the World Heritage Sites that circle the capital, all no more than an hourlong train ride away. Monumental cities like Segovia and Toledo guard Madrid’s northern and southern borders, while El Escorial and Alcalá de Henares attest to the region’s royal and educational heritage. West of Madrid on the other side of the Guadarrama Mountains lies a city that is still completely surrounded by its original medieval walls: Ávila.


Spain’s first Gothic cathedral When I daytripped here on my way back home from Salamanca, I was so short on time that I unfortunately wasn’t able to walk around on top of the murallas, the old city walls. I did get to check out the cathedral, however. It was a really interesting church because it’s the oldest Gothic cathedral in…

Salamanca, Spain: A Warmth in Winter

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Few cities were as high on my northern Spain hitlist as Salamanca. Yes, there was León, with its wall-to-wall stained-glass cathedral and free tapas action, or Oviedo, Santiago’s cousin out east in Asturias, or even Albarracín, the most beautiful village in Spain. But Salamanca always kept tugging me down there, even after I nearly booked a marathon train journey down there from Galicia and chickened out.

The perfect opportunity to swing by this monumental university town presented itself to me this January, when I was dropping off my family at the Madrid airport after having shown them all around the capital, Segovia, and Santiago for a week. On my way back northwest to Santiago, I took advantage of being so far south to make the trek out to Salamanca before riding the trenhotel home.

A break from the Castilian cold Contrary to any stereotypes you might have about Spain, it gets cold in the winter here—really cold. It isn’t hot and sunny year-round here unless you live in the Canari…